In anticipation of tomorrow’s (January 10) release of Star Wars: Darth Plagueis by James Luceno, we are posting this exclusive excerpt of an exchange between Dooku (still a Jedi Knight) and Palpatine. The scene resonates as a prelude to Episode II and The Clone Wars…
Behind each of the Rotunda’s hover platform docking stations extended wedge-shaped office complexes more than half a kilometer in length, where Senators met with one another, entertained guests, and, on rare occasions, carried out the work they had been elected or appointed to perform. Some of the offices were sealed environments, in which the atmospheres of member worlds were replicated; others, especially those belonging to hive species, were staffed by hundreds of beings who performed their duties in cubicles that resembled nectarcomb cells. By comparison, Naboo’s was rather prosaic in design and adornment, and yet unrivaled in terms of the number of high-profile visitors it received.
“I’m giving thought to leaving the Order,” Master Dooku told Palpatine in the windowless room that was the Senator’s private study. “I can no longer abide the decisions of the Council, and I have to be free to speak my mind about the wretched state of the Republic.”
Palpatine didn’t reply, but thought: Finally.
With Darth Maul traveling to Dorvalla on his first mission, Palpatine had been preoccupied all afternoon, and now Dooku’s disclosure: long anticipated and yet still something of a surprise.
“This isn’t the first time you’ve been exasperated with the Council,” he said carefully, “and it probably won’t be the last.”
Dooku shook his head firmly. “Never more than this. Even after Galidraan. I’ve no recourse.”
Frigid Galidraan was years behind him, but for Dooku the incident remained an open wound. A local governor had succeeded in luring the Jedi into a conflict with Mandalorian mercenaries that had left eleven Jedi dead and the True Mandalorians—largely innocent of the charges that had been leveled against them—wiped out, save for one. Since then, and on each occasion he and Palpatine had met, Dooku had begun to look less and less like a Jedi Master and more like the noble he would have been on his native Serenno. Meticulously groomed, he carried himself like an aristocrat, affecting tailored tunics and trousers, and a velvety black cloak that gave him a dashing, theatrical look. His slightly curved lightsaber hilt, too, might have been a prop, though he was known to be one of the Order’s most skilled duelists. And behind a mask of arrogant civility, Palpatine knew him to capable of great cruelty.
“By request from the Senate,” Dooku went on, “the Council dispatched several Jedi to Baltizaar, and my former Padawan somehow succeeded in accompanying them.”
Palpatine nodded soberly. “I know something of that. Baltizaar’s Senator petitioned for help in fending off attacks by the Bando Gora.”
“Sadistic abductors and assassins,” Dooku said in anger. “Military action was called for, not Jedi intercession. But no matter, the Council complied with the request, and now Komari Vosa and the others are believed to be dead.”
Palpatine raised an eyebrow. “The young woman who became infatuated with you?”
“The same,” Dooku said quietly. “At Galidraan she fought brutally against the Mandalorians, almost as if in an attempt to impress me. As a result I told the Council that she wasn’t ready for the trials and Jedi Knighthood. Compounding their initial error in dispatching Jedi, Master Yoda and the rest have refused to send reinforcements to search for survivors.”
Palpatine considered it. “If Baltizaar was meant to be another attempt to impress you, all Komari Vosa did was prove that you were right about her all along.”
Dooku regarded him. “Perhaps. But the failure is mine.” He ran a hand over his short beard. “As skilled as I am with a lightsaber, I’ve turned out to be an ineffectual teacher. Master Qui-Gon Jinn has become a solitary and secretive rogue. And now Vosa . . .” He snorted. “I declined to be a member of the Council in order to devote myself to diplomacy, and look how that has turned out. The Republic is sliding deeper into chaos.”
“You’re one man against a galaxy full of scoundrels,” Palpatine said.
Dooku’s eyes flashed. “One man should be able to make a difference if he is powerful enough.”
Palpatine let the silence linger. “You would claim the title of Count of Serenno?”
“By right of birth. My family is agreeable. Now it’s simply a matter of informing the High Council.”
“Has anyone ever left the Order?”
“Nineteen before me.”
“Have you shared your discontent with any of them?”
“Only Master Sifo-Dyas.”
Dooku looked up. “He worries that I’m going to do something
“Leaving the Order isn’t rash enough?”
“He fears that I will denounce the Council openly, and reveal how divided its members are about answering to the Senate.” He looked Palpatine in the eye. “I’ve half a mind to join your cause.”
Palpatine touched his chest. “My cause?”
Dooku adopted a sly smile. “I understand politics, my friend. I know that you have to be circumspect about what you say and to whom. But that the disenfranchised worlds of the Outer Rim enjoy any support at all is largely due to you. You speak honestly and you champion the underprivileged, and you may be the only one capable of bringing the Republic back from the brink. Unless, of course, you have been lying to me all these years.”
Palpatine made light of the remark. “Perhaps a few lies of omission.”
“Those I am willing to forgive,” Dooku said, “whether or not we become partners in addition to being allies.”
Palpatine interlocked his hands. “It is an interesting notion. We would have to deepen our conversations, become completely honest with each other, bare our innermost thoughts and feelings to determine whether we truly share the same goals.”
“I’m being honest when I tell you that the Republic needs to be torn down and built up again from the ground up.”
“That is a tall order.”
“It might require a civil war.”
“And how far from that are we now?” Dooku fell silent for a moment, then said, “The Senate grapples with trying to solve disputes the Jedi often see firsthand. What laws are enacted only follow from our having brought our lightsabers to bear.”
“It was the Jedi who pledged to support the Republic.”
“The Order’s place in this is a matter Sifo-Dyas and I have discussed endlessly,” Dooku snapped. “But the members of the Council are not similarly inclined. They are entrenched in archaic thinking, and slow to embrace change.” He paused, and adopted a sinister look. “Don’t let yourself be fooled, Palpatine. They see dark times ahead. In fact, they think of little else. That’s why they have allowed the Jedi to become involved in parochial conflicts like those at Galidraan, Yinchorr, and Baltizaar, which are like brush fires born of windblown embers from a massive blaze just beyond the horizon. But instead of actually rising up against the corruption in the Republic, perhaps disbanding the Senate entirely for a period of time, they have become fixated on prophecy. They await the coming of a prophesized redeemer who will bring balance
to the Force and restore order.”
“A redeemer?” Palpatine stared at him in authentic surprise. “You’ve never alluded to this prophecy.”
“Nor would I now if I still thought of myself as loyal to the Order.”
“I never considered that the Force needed to be balanced.”
Dooku’s lip curled. “The Order interprets the prophecy to mean that the dark tide needs to be stemmed.”
“You don’t accept it?”
Dooku had an answer ready. “Here is the truth of it: the Jedi could fulfill the prophecy on their own, if they were willing to unleash the full powers of the Force.”
“The full powers of the Force,” Palpatine said. “I’m afraid you’ve lost me.”
Dooku blew out his breath. “Perhaps it’s something we can discuss in the future.”
“You’ve made your decision, then?”
Dooku nodded. “If one more Jedi dies because of indolence on the part of the Republic and moral equivocation on the part of the Council, I will leave the Temple and refuse to look back.
Intrigued? Read a full 50-page excerpt of Star Wars: Darth Plagueis at Suvudu.com!
Look for Star Wars: Darth Plagueis on sale Tuesday, January 10.